Bears beat Sabers in defensive showdown

WAILUKU – Kawela Kaeo-Mata had 10 receptions for the Baldwin High School football team on Saturday night before making the catch that really counted.

Kaeo-Mata had feasted on screen passes against Maui High, but when he caught his 11th and final pass on that pattern midway through the fourth quarter, he split the defenders and sprinted 55 yards down the left sideline for the only touchdown of the game in a 7-0 victory.

“I don’t know, I just saw the ball, caught the ball and I just kept on running,” the 5-foot-7, 150-pound senior said. “I was, like, ‘I have got to get to that end zone.’ “

Baldwin is now 1-0 in the Maui Interscholastic League second round, and 4-1 overall with the first-round title. Maui High (0-1, 2-3 MIL overall) has three games remaining – winning out would not give the Sabers a shot at their first state tournament berth since 2000 unless Baldwin loses twice.

Kaeo-Mata finished with 134 receiving yards.

“They came out strong, they have one good team, but in the end it is all about heart and that is what the boys came out with and we came out with the victory,” Kaeo-Mata said.

Baldwin coach Keneke Pacheco said of the scoring catch: “That was a great play, there were some good blocks out there. We had been working the sides all night long, so he popped one. That is a play we work on all the time. We came up big when we needed to, we made the right plays at the right time and as a result we won the game.”

The Bears recorded their 26th win in a row over the Sabers, and have a stranglehold on an 11th trip to the state tournament in the last 12 years.

“Oh man, that was a great game, Maui High came out well-prepared,” Pacheco said. “Our defense came out well-prepared and it was a great game. It came down to one play – I don’t know what to say, man. Somebody had to win, somebody had to lose. Maui High did a great job preparing for this game, my hat’s off to them.”

Maui High, 4-3 overall this year, has not had a winning season since going 7-3 in 2003.

“That was an awesome game, we wish we were on the other side of the ball, but they played a great game,” said Sabers coach David Bui. “Both sides played a great game, it was a great battle. I can’t say nothing more about that – we are proud of our boys.”

After the teams traded turn-overs on consecutive plays early in the third quarter – a fumble recovery by Baldwin’s Tevita Lotulelei-Wilhelm was followed by an interception by Maui High’s Brysen Kokubun – the Sabers’ Austin Hoe hit Tyson Takabayashi with a 50-yard pass to the Bears’ 14-yard line.

Maui High could go no further, however, and Jared Kapisi’s 33-yard field-goal try was just wide left.

The Sabers then forced a three-and-out series on which the Bears lost eight yards. A 29-yard punt and 14-yard return by Andre Pierman put Maui High on the Baldwin 27, but the Sabers gained only one yard, and Kapisi’s 43-yard field goal try was short.

After the teams traded punts, the Bears tried a 30-yard field goal by Benjamin Wuthrich that was blocked – Sabers lineman Tony Mafileo returned the ball 27 yards to the Maui High 47.

The Sabers, though, gained only two yards and had to punt. Five plays later, Kaeo-Mata finally found the end zone.

“Our defense played a hell of a game,” Bui said after Maui High gave up a season low for points and just 263 total yards.

Baldwin was just a little better on the defensive side of the ball – it surrendered only 128 yards.

“Our defense did stellar, they played very enthusiastic, they played very strong,” Pacheco said. “We asked them to play spirited and they did a great job doing that.”

The best chance for a score in the first half came when the Bears reached the Sabers’ 16, but on fourth-and-6, Badillo fumbled the snap.

Baldwin forced a Maui High punt on the next possession, but the ball hit up man Chris Kazanecki after a bounce and Alexander Vainikolo recovered for the Sabers at their 48.

A personal-foul on the Bears moved the Sabers to the 36, but they were forced to punt after gaining only two more yards on their deepest penetration of the first half.

* Robert Collias is at


Maui High ….. 0 ….. 0 ….. 0 ….. 0-0

Baldwin ……… 0 ….. 0 ….. 0 ….. 7-7

Fourth Quarter

B-Kawela Kaeo-Mata 55 pass from Jeremiah Badillo (Benjamin Wuthrich kick), 5:18.

* * *

Junior varsity-Baldwin 30, Maui High 14.

# # #

Friday’s Result

At King Kekaulike



Kamehameha Maui ….. 0 ….. 10 ….. 0 ….. 21-31

King Kekaulike ……….. 14 …… 0 ….. 6 ….. 16-36

First Quarter

KK-Brandon Haupu 25 pass from Ryley Widell (Micah McDonald kick), 7:02.

KK-Jay Braun 6 run ( McDonald kick), 5:16.

Second Quarter

KM-Kailoa Akoi 27 FG, 10:44.

KM-Keawe Rindlisbacher 25 pass from Chase Newton (Akoi kick), 3:52.

Third Quarter

KK-Kawika Homalon 1 run (kick failed), 6:31.

Fourth Quarter

KK-Christian Garcia Alvarez 62 fumble return (McDonald kick), 9:59.

KM-Ian Armitage 6 run (Akoi kick), 6:50.

KK-Widell 36 FG, 3:23.

KM-Ikaika Chong Kee 4 run (Akoi kick), 1:52.

KK-Kawika Homalon 45 run (run failed), 1:08.

KM-Koeni Keanini 35 pass from Newton (Akoi kick), 0:06.

…………………………… KSM ….. KK

First downs …………….. 29 ….. 19

Rushes-yards …… 39-149 ….. 39-196

Passing yards ……….. 245 ….. 65

Total offense …………. 394 ….. 261

Return yards ………….. 85 ….. 118

Comp-Att-Int …… 16-43-3 ….. 9-17-0

Fumbles-lost …………. 2-2 ….. 0-0

Penalties-yards ….. 9-119 ….. 12-106

Punts-avg ………… 2-16.5 ….. 5-34.0


RUSHING-KSM, Newton 14-106, Cal Alexander 6-35, Chong Kee 9-35, Armitage 6-18, Joshua Hiwatashi 1-0, team 3-(minus 45); KK, Homalon 20-91, Braun 8-59, Widell 6-21, Patrick Ibe 3-19, Kianu Pelekai-Peneku 2-6.

PASSING-KSM, Newton 16-43-3-245; KK, Widell 9-17-0-65.

RECEIVING-KSM, Hiwatashi 5-51, Keanini 4-113, Cabanas 3-18, Keawe Rindlisbacher

4-63; KK, Haupu 3-33, Austin Ferreira 3-24, Charles Apuna 3-8.

MISSED FIELD GOALS-KK, McDonald 40 (SH), 54 (SH), Widell 55 (SH).